Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Truth and lies and halftime pies.

Before I begin rambling in my usual fashion about whatever nonsense my head feels the overwhelming urge to spit out, I feel it would be remiss of me not to cover a recent, life altering event. As some of you might know, especially those that follow me on Twitter (@Johnny_Spacey), Dickfingers and I are no more. She moved out, I stayed here.


Dickfingers wasn't the only one to vote with their feet. Unless you've been living under a rock in a hole in a trough in, oh I dunno, let's say Alaska, you will have by now noticed that we, the UK, have voted to leave the European Union.

I say "we", I myself voted to remain a member. I admit I was surprised when I awoke on my settee, having fallen asleep there at some point before the sun had popped his brow above the skyline in a vain attempt to follow the count. I woke to find myself confirmed as a member of a minority.

It's a situation I am well used to.

As a small child my bedroom walls were covered with A4 sized posters torn from football magazines featuring my favourite footballer, a barrel chested vanguard of the squad from those halcyon days of the three day week and rickets. I had never made a conscious decision to support the Blues but, as with every other child in that era, I was indoctrinated into sharing my father's allegiance. These days, since the middle classes discovered that football is "splendid" and decided they wanted to price the proper fan out of his traditional Saturday afternoons of tribalism, delicious pies and alcohol fueled camaraderie, people tend to support whichever club is at the top when they start to pretend to have become interested.

City were good back in those days before Colin Bell gave way to Kathy Lloyd and Linda Lusardi above my headboard. Then they went shit, then a bit good again before becoming absolutely diabolical until they got rich. Never once, even in the third tier of football and losing 2-0 with only moments left on the clock, did I ever waver from my staunch belief that, although shit at football, my allotted team were still the greatest on some surreal level...

...except once.

It was my first year at primary school. I loved that school. It was a new school, built in the minimalist style made popular by the rise of communism in the east. Every door in the school would waft open in defiance of the door closers installed whenever someone opened the ridiculously heavy main entrance door, the gym equipment was impressively dangerous looking and the asbestos particles twinkled like stars in the beams of light that crept through the black out curtains whenever we were watching "educational television" on those mornings Miss Grundy (my first love) sported a pimple on her usually flawless chin and seemed in an unusually agitated state.

My first Wednesday brought with it my first games' lesson. A morning playing football whilst a different teacher, male and clad in a Royal blue track suit, smoked cigarettes and blew a whistle from the sideline. I was very excited. (It's just occurred to me, I have no idea what the girls where doing whilst we played footie. It being the seventies I'd imagine it was something to do with make-up or cooking.)

We got changed in the cloak rooms and I took great pride in lacing up my boots as my father had taught me (why do the laces need wrapping around like that? You'd think by now someone would have begun manufacturing laces to fit them. That's one for Dragon's Den, that is) and smoothing my thigh length, sky blue, football socks up over my skinny calves.

Out onto the field we trotted and I stood in line, proudly puffing out my chest, a chest that bore the badge that I had grown up surrounded by.

I was the only one.

Every other child bar one wore red, the one in neither red nor blue wore the white of Leeds United. No one was surprised when that kid was taken into care, his parents were quite plainly guilty of child abuse. A kid who would later quite literally grow into the name of "Fat Malc" asked why I supported "shitty City". I told him what I'd heard my father tell men when faced with the same situation. I smiled as I emulated a hero that even outshone Colin Bell.

"I wanted to be a red, but I wasn't fucking ugly enough."

Fat Malc was in no way a master of the headbutt, but his failed attempt at assault was enough to push my own indiscretion, the dropping of a fuck bomb, down the pecking order in things my chain smoking games teacher had to be fuming about, though I still received a clip around the ear.

Badgered all day by lads who, apparently, all had fathers much bigger than I, I began to doubt my own beliefs. Here were people telling me that the football team I loved weren't actually the greatest but were shit and always lost. I was confused, but I couldn't imagine so many others were lying to me. I needed to speak to my dad.

It was the days before my father had bought his first pub and he was still employed as a case maker at Parker Rosser's on Trafford Park, beneath the shadow of Old Trafford football ground. After milking the overtime, as was his want, he arrived home just before bedtime, his donkey jacket smelling sweetly of wood shavings and engineering grease, staggering all over and stinking of Polo Mints.

"Hiya dad, can I talk to you?"

"I thought you'd be in bed." He inspected my mother's burnt offerings left for him in the oven

"It's important."

We pulled out chairs and I ate a piece of bread and butter whilst he peeled congealed gravy off his chop and made funny faces.

"Dad, can I support United?"

He literally began to choke, slapping himself on the back and spluttering.

"You fucking what?" He inquired.

"I said, can I support United? Please?"

"I thought you were going to tell me you were a poof," He laughed, "and no you bleedin' can't."

"What does "poof" mean?" I asked, steering the conversation in the way only a small child can, toward embarrassment.

"You know, gay..." He performed the universally recognised, acceptable-in-the-seventies hand signal, "...oooh, look at the muck in 'ere."

"What, like German people?"


"The Germans, the ones granddad dropped his bombs on."


"That's it, Nasties."

"No, not bloody Nazis, Nazi's are like this", he performed a different though similar hand gesture, this time using two fingers from his free hand to represent a silly, little moustache.

There followed a conversation in which the phrases "my dead body", "I don't give a shit what Malc said" and "get your finger from up your nose" were used, then I went to bed.

The following day saw my first visit to the headmaster's office and a thirty minute session of isolation, the result of telling Soon-To-Be-Fat Malc and his red clad comrades that I had been reliably assured that, however big their dads were, mine would "stamp all over their fucking fingers" and informing the whole assembled shower they were, in fact, nothing but "Nastie gay pooftas" whilst goosestepping my way through an impersonation of a dead German Chancellor that Freddie Starr himself would've been proud of.

But I digress...

I'd been convinced my allegiance was to the best team. It wasn't, but it was the team I chose and the team I stood by. My father had told me City were the greatest and United were shit, he'd lied.

Bear in mind, these were the days before City were the greatest and United became shit at football. Turns out, maybe my old man was quite the Nostre Damus. 

It didn't matter that he lied, that he'd over-egged the egg and mayonnaise sandwich. I watched our team rise and fall and rise and I'll probably watch them fall again one day. It's only football. I'm a Blue, that's that and my decision to remain in that minority in no way impacts on others, nor their steadfast refusal to see sense on myself.

Imagine if you had been duped into basing your allegiance to something more important than kicking a ball or which cynically marketed merchandise you sent your son to school in on lies.

To paraphrase the great Mr Shankly, the referendum wasn't a matter of life or death. It was far more important than that.

We shouldn't let the liars forget their lies, nor forget their lies ourselves.

Now, where will we be building this week's hospital?


(Cheers Spence.)

Friday, 17 June 2016

The scabby dog with the weaponised arse.

The fleas leapt and swept and hopped through the air
Diving like monkeys from hair to hair
Laying their eggs on the dog in the chair
And feasting on blood with nary a care

Vigorously did the dog scratch at his chin
Then wander his way through to the kitchen
Where he snuffled and sniffled at the over filled bin
Licking some beans from within an old tin

The house was deserted, the door left ajar
And the gaps in the fence meant that it couldn't bar
The dog from escaping to roam near and far
'Til, just before tea time, being hit by a car

The lady that hit him, her name was Annette
Took the flea bitten mongrel to the town's local vet
Where the back right leg of the poor, forlorn pet
Was placed in a cast, once carefully set

No chip in his neck so his owners weren't found
And the poor scabby dog was sent to the pound
Until that fateful day came around
When a child arrived who'd been promised a hound

Dad tried to convince her this dog wasn't right
The mangy, old thing was a pitiful sight
Patchy fur and a huge overbite
Sitting in a kennel smelling strongly of shite

But certain she was that this sorry mutt
Was the mutt meant for her, so, though he did tut
Dad smiled, took the old dog and gently put
Him on the backseat where he emptied his guts

Mummy wasn't happy, she'd not wanted this
What was he thinking? Dad was taking the piss
But her daughter was happy and planted a kiss
Upon the dog's head as, again, it's arse hissed

"Not in your room" Mummy had said
"You'll have to make do with Big Ted instead
His tummy is bad and he's only just fed
We don't want him pooing all over your bed"

The girl was a good girl, she'd not disobeyed
So she wasn't admonished when her dad found her laid
On the floor by the blanket from which they had made
A bed for the mongrel they'd now named "Kincade"

With an arse that could easily clear a room
Fur just as rough as a street sweeper's broom
And breath smelling like the air from a tomb
He was hard to love, but loved he was soon

Not just by the girl he was always beside
The one in whose room he'd sneakily hide
But by all those around who smiled as they spied
The girl with the grin and the dog by her side

One day, when she's older, the two will part
And that parting will break that young lady's heart
She'll mourn poor Kincade, the dog with the art
Of bringing forth tears with a well timed, ripe fart

Later though, rather than sadness
Or longing to feel his weight on her mattress
The pain of the parting will burn less and less
And memories of him will bring forth happiness

The dog in the chair had had little to love
Dealt a harsh hand by a hand from above
He'd never known life not to be tough
Pardon the pun, but it'd been rather "Ruff"

A second chance had he earned, upon that day
When he'd spotted the gap and he'd run away
His back leg gave him gip, he'd certainly say
But it'd earned him a life less cold and less grey

Should you find that life be hard and living it be harsh
Find a gap in life's fence and then through it pass
Live the rest of your day's both hard and fast
Just like the scabby dog with the weaponised arse

(But do watch the traffic.)


Monday, 13 June 2016


A note lies on a counter, it's laid there for a couple of days
Hasty words of beauty scrawled across it's blue lined page
The edge is tattered, having been torn
From a notebook in which had been scribbled and drawn
'Twas written at speed and torn free in haste
Then into a sugar bowl carefully placed

The leaf's now stained and the ink's now blurred
You'd struggle to distinguish a single word
But he'd not, the one who'd watched those words fade
And now reads instead from the impression they've made
Words never spoken but imparted still
Thirteen of them offering a bittersweet pill

He'd tried hard to cry whenever he'd brewed up
Rereading those words as he'd filled his best cup
Those words, as they'd ebbed and they'd flowed 'cross that page
Those words that once sated his deep, savage rage
Drew him in tight while they pushed all else out
And shone a small light on where once there'd lived doubt

The walls we erect and the fences we build
Are the barriers behind which our futures are killed
Speak and speak and speak some more
Talk, impart, confess, adore
Speak of all things, both the great and the small
Those things that you feel, tell others them all

Open your gob and let the words spill
Don't think, just be honest and keep speaking 'til
The ears of the other, the brother or lover
Or sister or father or offspring or mother
The one to whom all of these words really matter
Hears the truth that dwells deep beneath idle chatter

One day soon he'll tidy up
Maybe even wash his favourite cup
He'll smile one last time as he reads what she wrote
Sigh a deep sigh and crumple the note
That day won't be long, already he's calm
But it can stay there for now, it's doing no harm


Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Mrs. Bird mustn't have made it.

For a rather large portion of my life I was able to say I hated no one and nothing and it was perfectly true. Then, along came two that I was justified in hating and hate I did, even though I had no idea who it was I was entitled to hate.

Those first two hated will remain faceless, their faces only having been known by the woman they murdered. My Grandmother. She'd disturbed them whilst they were emptying the safe in my mother's pub and they'd attacked her before fleeing, never to be brought to justice. The last words anyone (that anyone being her daughter) heard my Grandmother say were "I don't feel well, Sheila", then she was gone.

I can't remember if the two I hate got away with any money, I genuinely couldn't have cared less and doubt that I bothered asking.

It was an alien emotion, hatred. I'd said I'd hated this and I'd hated that, hated her and hated him, many times but with as much sincerity as on those occasions when I'd told one of my sons I was going to kill him if I got my hands on him. Hatred is something that we imagine is easy to imagine until we've experienced it and I can understand how some are sent insane by it's constant throttling of one's stream of thoughts. It takes quite some burying and, no matter how deeply interred, still it will drag itself from it's grave and come to find you. What's more, every time it pays you a visit it's macabre appearance will have become ever more gruesome due to the effects of the increasingly advanced decomposition taking place and the gradual replacement of fingers and nails with bloodied, ragged stumps.

The two have remained the only two. There are many others that I feel anyone would be perfectly entitled to place on their own list of 'hatees' but they don't make the grade for mine, the initial incumbents having set such a high benchmark. 

In fact, my list doesn't actually hold a name at all since, as with their faces, I've never known their names. Nor do I know if they care about what they did or if they've led lives good or bad since the events of that afternoon. It's all so out of my control, I can in no way affect what has happened or any aspect of the killers' existences but I think I've gotten it under control. They've taken on a kind of Schrodinger's murderers' mantle somewhere in my head.

Maybe they both died of cancer?

My mum moved out of the pub, it having also been the very dwelling in which my father had recently died she now found it too painful to return. I'm not superstitious, but I can see why people believe in maledictions and why they'd not want to tempt providence too far. So, after a lifetime as a landlord's daughter then a landlord's wife, she became a receptionist. It was a shame, she'd been quite literally born into the licensed trade and it had suited her right down to the ground.

Even that which is right, it seems, won't last forever.

Eventually, she began to suit that which she became. She worked hard, had a full social life on the other side of the bar and kept a beautiful home, later retiring and moving to a patch of ground beneath sunnier skies. I'm sure that, in an instant, she'd swap everything she's achieved since my Grandmother's death just to have had more time with those by whose sides she'd flourished beside still beside her side, even if that meant being stuck running a pub in a rainy, northern town while her now-ancient mother complained about how steep the bloody stairs were and admonished her for leaving the bloody keys in the bloody safe again as she descended those aforementioned overly-steep stairs noisily (and sideways, so she could keep a good grip on the banister) before finally taking her place at the end of the bar and wondering where her bloody son-in-law was.

But all of that is out of anyone's control. My mother can't affect the outcome of the action's of others and to focus on such impotency would add the fuel of frustration to the already burning embers of loss.

Longing, not loss, can bring the greatest pain. Ultimately, the pain of loss fades, whereas longing can only be sated or suffered.

My father would often say "you can't miss what you've never had", explaining the kindness he was performing in not letting me have whichever new toy I felt I just had to have. One day, he'd tell me, whichever useless, lead-coated, 1970's gizmo it was I was mithering him for would be broken, in the bin, gone and, he further explained, that loss would make me sad.

My dad was a right twat at times.

So I'd be left with longing and an endless list of things to save up for. Top of the list for a while was a tiny, furry, Paddington Bear toy. I loved it, longed for it, would whisper to it through the shop window whenever I stood waiting outside the newsagent's I'd seen it in, reassuring the little bear that, one day, we'd be together.

Eventually, an opportunity to get my hands on the funds to purchase Paddington presented itself. Excitedly, I set off for Swinton shopping precinct to finally sate my longing with two inches of duffel coated, Peruvian perfection.

Who ever needed more?

The shopkeeper had placed him into a little, blue striped, paper bag which was now stuffed into the pocket of my duffel coat alongside my fruit Polos and my tissue. My hand remained in the pocket alongside the toy, fingers probing the bag. I toyed with it all the way home, my fingers stroking Paddington's short, coarse fur, shiny nose and felt hat.

The Peruvian bear came everywhere I went and would spend his nights standing on my bedside cabinet to watch over me. I built him a little house out of a crisp box, painting roses around the front door, and spent many a happy hour ignoring all of my other toys while our relationship blossomed.

One day, I realised that I'd never checked beneath Paddington's hat to see the marmalade sandwich that surely lay there. I tugged at the brim, gently peeling it from the scalp.

It was fucking horrific.

The manufacturers had saved themselves money by not extending the fur to cover the top of his head, that being covered by the hat anyway. The once hot glue that had held the red hat in place formed wrinkles on the exposed plastic scalp, tufts of felt remaining fastened there and giving my favourite toy the macabre appearance of a man scalped by savages in one of the Westerns my father and I regularly enjoyed.

And there was no marmalade sandwich.

I attempted repairs. The first method not to make matters better was Pritt Stick which, although in no way effective, did give the patient shiny patches where it matted the once fine fur. Plan B, Superglue, burnt the plastic beneath the fur and caused several patches of alopecia, further adding to his macabre appearance. Plan three, a staple, shattered much of his skull and destroyed an eye, the process completing my duffel coated friend's transition from Grizzly to grisly.

What was worse was that I'd bought the bear with my own bloody money, mostly. The final portion had been provided by Broken-Legged Bri, my chubbiest and clumsiest chum. He had purchased from me my sister's Cindy doll, laughing gleefully as he immediately stripped her naked and used a felt tip pen to adorn her with nipples and  a pubis before (thankfully) fucking off.

The mind boggles.

My dad had indeed been a 'right twat', that's to say he was a twat but a twat who was right. Losing my furry friend had hurt greatly, especially given the horrific circumstances. I'd have given anything to turn the clock back and allow the marmalade sandwich to await those murderers in the realm of all things Shrodinger.

We know what we know. We'd always like to know more, it's human nature, part of the condition. But maybe we shouldn't peel back the felt cap of curiosity for fear of what lies beneath? Curiosity, after all, killed the cat and killing small animals, well, that's indicative of a psychopath. Curiosity is a psychopath. It doesn't give two shits one way or the other about you, only about truth, but an unnecessary truth can be very painful. We're drawn to it like a cat to the other side of a busy main road at rush hour, it causes us to destroy our favourite toy or to walk into a room to see who those unfamiliar men's voices belong too and it will almost always hurt.

What lay beneath the hat or who those men were hadn't mattered until curiosity had decided to stick it's fat nose in. We know good things rarely come from curiosity and we know we never overhear anything nice about ourselves but we still eavesdrop whenever the chance arises, whether walking past a door that someone has left slightly ajar or when queuing up for a pint at the bar of a busy, northern pub.

Some stuff just doesn't matter. Most stuff, in fact, just doesn't matter. Not really. More importantly, though, if your daughter keeps leaving the keys in the safe, be more Paddington...

...keep it under your hat.


Saturday, 4 June 2016

Look all around, there's nothing but blue skies.

Mouldy and draughty, my house is a pit
And even the dogs think the place shit
But it's all that I've got and I can't afford better
So when the boiler breaks I just put on a sweater
I'm grateful for whatever food's in my belly
And until recently had a thirty year old telly
It worked well enough and gave me the impression
Of action and drama in soap operas and Westerns
But then one night during a show with Stephen Fry in
That crackling, old box gave up even trying
It popped and sent smoke that was thick, pungent and white
Drifting up high while I sat and said "Shite!"

So off I went to Tesco to get myself
A deal on a telly that came straight from the shelf
I carried it home, these new one's are light
And looked forward to my usual Saturday night
I settled down deep in my favourite chair
One foot on a dog that snoozed and snored there
Lay on the floor halfway in between
The chair I had chosen and the flat, shiny screen
Looking so lost, sitting dwarfed in betwix
A vase with a flower and a set of six pics
I squinted at the remote clasped, tight, in my hand
Then turned on a film about a brass band

The picture was crisp and the speakers were sound
Then flicking through menus I suddenly found
All of those channels that, until recently
Had been unavailable for me to see
Those familiar shows watched without ever
Seeing a spot on a famous presenter
Or straggly hairs on the side of a beard
Or how that bloke off the weather looks a bit weird
All these now clearly presented in glorious HD
Even the wrinkles beneath Rachel Riley's knee
Spoiling my long held, low-def delusion
Of perfection whenever I'd put local news on

The novelty of the benefit hi-def had brung
Didn't linger around for very long
I longed for the time of blurry ignorance
I'd had and enjoyed while celebrities danced
Then, as ever when Monday morn' came around
Sat eating toast was where I could be found
Staring through eyes that longed for the gloom
At the flat, wicked window in the corner of the room
But what was that, sitting on that settee?
Glimpsed through the steam from my hot cup of tea
Was a woman who looked even better today
And sent all the grey clouds drifting away

Now she's the reason I tune in each morning
Scratching my arse as the new day is dawning
Munching on toast and loading a pipe to
Enjoy on my dog walk while cleaning up dog poo
A Cupid's bow and eyes dark and bright
A smile that'd make all wrong things right
I hang upon every word that she breathes
And won't start my day 'til she finally leaves
No matter the matter she's having to cover
Her words mesmerise like a whispering lover
Naga Munchetty, she's always enough
To brighten the day of an old bloke with a cough.

Enjoy the little things.